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TopDog Newsletters - 2014

Heralding the New Year!

Published: 30 December 2014

Hopefully the past week has been one of joy and entertainment as friends and family shared in the Christmas festivities. With gifts given, dinners shared and carols sung, the Yuletide spirit should be flowing freely. And with just days to go until the end of the holidays for most of us, many will be reflecting and making plans for the coming New Year. As ever, this is an opportunity to make a fresh start, do things differently and get yourself out of any ruts or bad habits that have crept in. A little time spent thinking about what you want to come can mean hitting the ground running in 2015!

Last minute Christmas tips

Published: 20 December 2014

“Christmas time! That man must be a misanthrope indeed, in whose breast something like a jovial feeling is not roused - in whose mind some pleasant associations are not awakened - by the recurrence of Christmas” - Sketches by Boz, Charles Dickens. Whilst that statement is a bit of sweeping generalisation, most of us can probably appreciate the sentiment that it is trying to evoke. This is a time to enjoy the festivities with your loved ones and partake in all the activities that go to making a merry, Christmas household.

In the market for a feast!

Published: 15 December 2014

With the long, dark nights of winter upon us, thoughts turn to seeking comfort and indulgence to bring warmth or perhaps as a reward for a long year of hard work. We look to stock up for the festivities and bring the feast to families and loved ones. Most people look forward with gusto to relaxing and supping on the wealth of joyous fare that is available at this time of year.

Alternatives to ski

Published: 10 December 2014

The air has turned chilly and there’s the promise of snow, so it’s time to break out the winter woollies. The white stuff is on its way which, for the keen and sporty types, means skiing and snowboarding excursions aren’t far away. And pre-Christmas skiing often means cheaper ski passes, fewer people on the slopes and shorter lift queues.

Minor travel maladies

Published: 05 December 2014

Whilst we fervently hope our holidays and trips will go smoothly, a combination of stresses and unfamiliar environments can result in you or one of your travelling companions picking up a minor complaint - one that may be more irritating than seriously debilitating. When abroad, it can be difficult to know who to turn to should you feel ‘under the weather’. For those who have purchased appropriate holiday insurance in advance of their trip, an advisory medical assistance service arranged by their insurers may be available - giving you the opportunity for a reassuring consultation with qualified medical staff.

Viewing platforms with style!

Published: 01 December 2014

Whilst airports may have prominence in the modern era, train travel is still popular and provides a wonderful opportunity to admire some of the world’s best design. In the halcyon days of rail, leading architects were commissioned to build soaring and elegant edifices for major train transport hubs, so that visitors and commuters alike could marvel at the engineering wonders all around them.

Global breakfasts

Published: 25 November 2014

It shouldn’t be much of a surprise that most people the world over consider breakfast to be a very important meal. And even though today’s busy lifestyles mean that it often gets neglected or hastily taken, consumer research shows that folks wish they had more opportunity to eat well before heading out for the day.

Christmas markets

Published: 20 November 2014

All over Europe you’ll find festive Christmas markets famed for their attractive stalls and vibrant atmosphere. And along with the sights and sounds of seasonal cheer, come the smells and tastes as vendors offer warming snacks like hot roasted chestnuts and mince pies, perhaps sampled with a touch of spice in some mulled wine. Holiday cheer is spreading fast and with the Christmas trees and sparkling lights approaching, it's hard to ignore this extravaganza!

December travel

Published: 15 November 2014

With the Christmas and New Year holidays just around the corner, it’s very tempting to catch a break just before the festivities commence. December can be a good time to travel to avoid crowds in some destinations or even just to make a short trip somewhere close to home for a short spell of calm. If you do want to venture further afield and go away at this time, there’s plenty on offer such as sunny beach destinations in the Canaries, whale watching in California or skiing in the Alps!

Fun in the winter sun

Published: 10 November 2014

Just because the dark evenings have drawn in and the weather’s turned colder, there’s no need to think that you’re done with the sun for the year. There are still plenty of opportunities to get away and enjoy that tropical break as the sun shines overhead and warms you up! Guaranteed warmth, soft sea breezes and sunset cocktails taken overlooking sandy beaches can be more than just a dream in these frosty months.

Must-see trees!

Published: 05 November 2014

With an imposing sense of towering beauty and majestic serenity, a well-tended or ancient tree is admired the world over. In fact, in some areas, a desire to ensure we keep these wonders means that it’s not uncommon to find a mature tree in your back garden has a preservation order, to protect the landscape of your neighbourhood and surroundings.

Going underground

Published: 31 October 2014

Subterranean paintings dating back 39,900 years have recently been discovered, on the Indonesian island of Sulawesi, showing outlines of human hands and local animals, which makes this a significant find for scientists and an example of the amazing things that take place right below our feet. There are plenty of unique experiences and activities to try if you look below the surface, even some in and around London such as dining on Mexican cuisine in the Old Vic Tunnels, Midnight Apothecary events in the Thames Tunnel or watching James Bond in the Aubin Cinema, Shoreditch.

Adventurous dining

Published: 26 October 2014

At home or abroad, there are some amazing dining experiences just waiting to be discovered! Perhaps it’s a unique environment that attracts you or an interesting setup like The Clink restaurant in London where a modern-style is cooked and presented by inmates of HMP Brixton!

Fortifying holidays

Published: 21 October 2014

Castle-building in the UK began in earnest during the Norman Conquest, with William I establishing many to secure territory as his forces advanced through England. Often built in significant defensible areas or at key strategic locations, castles came to signify a display of the owners’ rank and wealth as well as their ability to protect the people. The largest inhabited castle in England today is Windsor Castle, favoured weekend residence of the Queen, which dominates a scenic part of the Thames on the outskirts of the capital.

All inclusive for 2015All inclusive for 2015

Published: 16 October 2014

An all-inclusive holiday can be a big moneysaver and offer significant relief from the stress of sorting flights, accommodation and meals. Plus, the quality of such package deals has significantly improved from the original offerings back in the 1950s, with different resorts designed for family-friendly stays to more upmarket offerings for adults only.

Natural phenomena

Published: 11 October 2014

From the tops of mountains touching the skies to the iridescent depths of the seas, there is a mysterious majesty to the world we live in. Be they geological, meteorological or oceanographic, we are surrounded by natural wonders. You can find incredible and awe-inspiring phenomena the world over - beautiful rainbows, the Northern Lights, amazing landscapes like the Grand Canyon and the might of the Niagara Falls. To see any of these up close would be truly unforgettable!

Shopping around

Published: 06 October 2014

There are vibrant shopping havens the world over – from Oxford Street in London to Harajuku in Tokyo; from the famed duty-free malls of Dubai to the fashion hubs of Hong Kong or Singapore – for you to take your pick of quality merchandise. On these avenues of consumer wonders, you can happily while away your leisure time seeking out sites and soaking up the culture whilst looking out for that perfect present!

Free attractions

Published: 01 October 2014

“The best things in life are free” is a popular conceit in entertainment and there’s no denying that ‘free’ is an enticing concept when it comes to travel. After all, if you’re travelling in a family or a group, the cost of some of the popular local attractions can really add up. Transport, entrance fees, something to eat, a trip to the gift shop… can leave your pocket a lot lighter than is ideal.

Riding high

Published: 26 September 2014

For some fantastic panoramic views, you can’t go wrong with a scenic cable car ride. There are some fantastic journeys all over the world that should be high on any travel agenda. Often a great attraction in their own right, many also connect to other impressive sights, offering a kind of touristic ‘two for the price of one’!

The hunt for October sun

Published: 21 September 2014

With the change in seasons and the lengthening of nights, our thoughts turn to brighter times and warmer climes. Next summer seems like a distant dream but with a little bit of planning things don’t have to be all that gloomy! October is a great time to grab a last-minute deal on an extended weekend or a long-haul break; there are some amazing destinations on offer. And for those with children, the half term offers an opportunity to get a bit more colour into their cheeks.

Around a city in a day and a half!

Published: 16 September 2014

In today’s fast-paced world it can be difficult to allocate sufficient time for a long, leisurely break. Thankfully, with today’s easy-to-book hotels and transportation, there are a multitude of destinations for those who are time poor - all in the space of a short weekend! City breaks are ideal for folk who want a little change from their normal routine. Perhaps time off from the kids, new sights, different culture, enjoyable food and drink … and 36 hours may just be all you need!

Importance of travel insurance

Published: 11 September 2014

The Association of British Insurers recently reported that travel insurance offers medical aid to over 4,300 Britons travelling abroad every week. This highlights the primary aim for travel insurance - to provide peace of mind in difficult circumstances. When you’re away, dealing with another country’s processes may be overwhelming, so knowing that you have something to fall back on could make a huge difference.

Book now for 2015!

Published: 06 September 2014

If you’re already dreaming about travel plans for next year, you might want to think about booking your holiday early. Being an early bird by planning in advance offers many advantages and many travel companies are eager to secure customers’ commitment in advance. Free spa treatments, room upgrades, excursions or even your own butler could be just the complimentary add-ons that seal the deal for you!

Rooftop views

Published: 01 September 2014

If you have a fondness for taking time out during a holiday to people watch and see the world go by, you’d opt for relaxing at a street café. But if you want to city watch, you need to get high! Well, higher up that is. In many cities, all over the world, you can take yourself up and away from the hustle and bustle at ground level to observe the wonders that come from a panoramic viewpoint. Developers are taking advantage of this desire to relax and see the bigger picture by offering bars, restaurants and observation platforms with simply unbeatable views.

Blissful escapes

Published: 27 August 2014

However we go and whoever we go with, often the main reason for taking a holiday is the chance to relax. Holiday time is precious; a time to recharge our batteries. It’s the moment to get away and seek succour, in whatever form, anywhere but here.

September festivals

Published: 22 August 2014

Combining a holiday with a festival is in vogue as it is an ideal way to experience a region’s culture, customs, music and culinary delights. Such festivals, particularly those outdoors, can lead to the release of ‘happy hormones’ which relieve stress - walking to and from your tent is a great workout in itself. Relax and enjoy all the health benefits of just being in the fresh air, maybe with some added glitter and costumes too!

Grand majesties

Published: 17 August 2014

There’s a Korean proverb, "It’s better to see something once than to hear about it a thousand times". For many, the big part of travelling is that feeling you get when experiencing something completely new, something you haven’t seen, done or even imagined before. There are wonders to be explored all around the world that have the potential to suddenly make you realise the vastness of the grand scheme of things - from towering mountains and expansive deserts to endless skies and deep oceans.

Gorgeous-gardens

Published: 12 August 2014

Horticulture and gardening are the kind of pursuits that reward dedication. Careful cultivation and a keen eye for style often leads to amazing displays of colour and crafted foliage, designed both for personal pleasure and as wonders to be shown off. And people really appreciate the efforts put in to showcase these tended aspects of the natural world – as demonstrated by the crowds that flock every year to see the Chelsea Flower Show.

Luxurious family time

Published: 08 August 2014

Whilst we often associate luxury breaks with children-free travelling, there are many gorgeous hotels around the world that are both upmarket and child friendly. With summer finally here and the August Bank Holiday weekend coming up, this is as good a time as any to consider booking that well deserved family break, if you haven’t done so already.

A river runs through it

Published: 31 July 2014

Rivers have played an important part in human history, as a vital source of fresh water for survival, irrigation for crops, infrastructure for commerce and even as the fundamental basis for the birth and growth of empires. Even though the era when rivers like the Thames acted as primary highways is past its glory days, major waterways still have an important role in people's lives. Some hold immense religious significance, others still act as transportation corridors in areas where roads and rails cannot go. Plus rivers have the serious potential to be a source of eco-friendly power.

A month of sundaes!

Published: 24 July 2014

In the United States, July is heralded as National Ice Cream Month. And unsurprisingly so, as the US leads the way in eating this delight with an average annual national consumption of 26 litres per head. Flavour analysis reveals vanilla counts for 29% of all sales and chocolate comes in second at 9%. Homemade varieties are gaining in popularity, though, as consumers explore unique combinations such as an exotic and sweet curry ice cream with mango and pistachio or perhaps a creative brown bread and rum flavour.

New UNESCO World Heritage Sites

Published: 17 July 2014

In 1978 the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) began cataloguing and recognising landmark sites around the globe in an effort to preserve the world’s cultural and natural heritage and raise awareness of places that are key to the common heritage of humanity. Last month UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee met in Qatar to add 26 new sites to the list, bringing the number of World Heritage Sites to 1,007 across 161 countries.

Black beaches

Published: 10 July 2014

Thousands of holidays are sold on the promise of a bright blue sea, lapping gently against a pristine white sandy beach - the stereotype of the ideal summer break. But if you’re looking for a beach holiday with a difference, there are many black sand beaches across the world that are absolutely stunning! Black sand is similar to its golden or white counterpart in texture and usually denotes areas with significant iron and valuable heavy metal deposits or ones which are a result of volcanic activity, with the grains being tiny fragments of lava.

Get on yer bike!

Published: 03 July 2014

The Tour de France is the most famous and, possibly, the most gruelling road cycling event in the world. Running from Saturday 5th to Sunday 27th July, the 101st race will be made up of 21 stages covering a total distance of 3,664 kilometres. This year the first 3 stages will take place on these shores. The Grand Départ takes place in West Yorkshire (Stage 1: Leeds to Harrogate, Stage 2: York to Sheffield and Stage 3: Cambridge to London) before continuing south through France for the subsequent 18 days, with challenges including five high summit finishes and cobblestoned stages before the traditional finish on Paris’ Champs Elysees.

Flying myths and truths

Published: 26 June 2014

The fear or unease of flying, also known as aviophobia, is a well-documented condition. It is thought that for many people it derives from the feeling that they have no control over their situation and/or similar fears such as claustrophobia. American actor Whoopi Goldberg and Dutch footballer-turned-coach Dennis Bergkamp have both spoken out about their aviophobia and the difficulties it imposes.

Summer foods

Published: 19 June 2014

Summertime is a time for rewards – you’ve made it through the cold and dark of winter, now it’s time to enjoy yourself! And what better way to treat yourself than with something tasty? For those travelling abroad, sampling the local cuisine is often one of the top priorities – you’re bound to find something to delight the taste buds in the traditional offerings of your destination!

Action holidays

Published: 12 June 2014

It’s always an attractive prospect to mix our holidays with sports and activities, particularly as, these days, there are plenty of resorts available, fully equipped for our needs. And if you’re a family, you often find children’s clubs on hand and activities included as part of the holiday package.

The Great Escape!

Published: 05 June 2014

As thousands of football fans head to Brazil to experience the FIFA World Cup, millions of others will catch the fever and spend hours glued to their TV screens at home, supporting their favourite teams! For those that are wholly indifferent to this tournament or “the beautiful game”, it could feel like a very long month indeed. However, it’s not necessary to barricade yourself in the house or blast off to the International Space Station to avoid the deafening roar of mass hysteria and footie-fuelled madness!

‘Before the summer’ holidays

Published: 29 May 2014

This is the time gardens begin to burst with colour and longer, lighter evenings herald the imminent arrival of summer. If you couldn’t get away for the recent Bank Holidays, it might still be a good idea to dodge the peak summer crowds and head for that spring break you deserve! This is the perfect season to get outdoors, take a walk and enjoy beautiful scenery. Short or long haul, city break or hikes and adventure… there are so many things you can do in some wonderful places before the real summer sets in.

The beautiful game - samba style!

Published: 22 May 2014

Brazil is synonymous with the World Cup - as five-time winner and the only nation to have played in the final stages of all 20 tournaments since the first event in Uruguay back in 1930. This year 12 stadiums, from the Amazon Basin in the north to the banks of the River Guaiba in the south, play host to the matches and the travelling carnival that is the FIFA World Cup!

Alternative city breaks

Published: 15 May 2014

For those who just want to get away for a short time or can only spare a long weekend for a change of scenery, a city break is an ideal option. But whilst the romance of Paris, the history of Rome or the nightlife of Reykjavik are much loved, they are also well-travelled paths. For something a bit more unexpected, adventurous or special, there are plenty of amazing, ‘unsung’ cities in Europe that would make for a memorable weekend.

Alternate destinations

Published: 08 May 2014

For many people, it can be hard finding the time to take a holiday so when you do, you want to make the most of it. This often leads to treading the paths most-travelled as recommendations take the strain out of researching destinations. Naturally, major tourist destinations are popular for a reason, making them the safe choice for a great holiday. After all, not everyone wants a different adventure every time. But such popularity can have its drawbacks ranging from high prices to traffic-stopping hordes of people.

Fortified cities

Published: 01 May 2014

Throughout history, people have looked to their city’s walls for shelter in troubled times. Every city has a unique story to tell and over the centuries war and conflict will have touched the stones of most. Whilst many of the walls that once encircled cities have long been demolished as urban growth and modernisation outstripped their need, according to UNESCO there are still more than 50 cities around the world with city walls that remain almost complete or wholly standing. These give a tangible link through history to their protected communities.

Cultured and caffeinated

Published: 24 April 2014

First drunk in the 15th century in the Sufi monasteries around Mocha in Yemen, coffee is one of the world’s most popular non-alcoholic drinks. Favoured for its rich, slightly bitter taste and caffeine content, it’s the morning drink of many to get them ready for the day ahead. In many countries, going for a coffee serves as a socially significant event for conversation and catching up with friends. These days, the extensive range of coffee styles and preparation methods has led to a resurgence in global café culture.

Amazing places

Published: 17 April 2014

People have long marvelled at the ‘Seven Wonders of the World’ (ancient, modern, natural or industrial) and often make them the focal point of a trip, such as going to Egypt for the Great Pyramid at Giza or to Jordan for the amazing city of Petra. However, there are many other breathtaking places and awe-inspiring sceneries just waiting for you to go out there and explore.

Bargain breaks

Published: 10 April 2014

We all dream of getting away on holiday and enjoying much needed relaxation time with family and/or friends. And with a bit of canny research, these trips don’t need to break the bank. Spring is a perfect time to bag a bargain and soak up some rays with an added bonus of beating the summer crowds! Mediterranean countries offer great value for money and excellent weather at this time of year. Plus, as most are only within 3 hours flight of the UK with frequent departures from most airports, they’re very tempting destinations.

Holidays you didn’t know you could have

Published: 03 April 2014

With spring finally here, the longer days give extra time for new adventures, be they at home or away. Head out for a trip that hits you with an adrenaline high or simply go for the total relaxation option and recharge your batteries in the sunshine, sipping an endless cocktail! You may even be able to combine these for the best of both worlds - leaving you with a chillout experience and guaranteed memories.

Remote restaurants

Published: 27 March 2014

Good food takes time and effort, both to prepare and to enjoy. But there are some restaurants that take that ethos of ‘no gain without pain’ even further. If you’re prepared to travel you can be assured of some amazing culinary experiences! There are some fabulous restaurants the world over which have made a speciality of their location. These establishments offer something above-and-beyond to complement their food and make your menu extra special.

A town called...

Published: 20 March 2014

Choosing a worthy travel destination is often the first and most important part of any holiday preparation. While many people rank things like climate, culture, amenities, and nightlife high on their list, some will come across a place name and think, “I just have to go there!” And if that place is liable to raise an eyebrow or elicit a smirk, then so much the better! In fact, there are so many places with unusual, amusing or even indecent names that it would be impossible for us to mention them all.

Somewhere less ordinary in Europe

Published: 13 March 2014

With the rise in adventurous holidays and ever-improving travel routes, it's getting harder to find places that are genuinely ‘off the beaten track' yet are suitable for most. But if you just know where to look, they are closer to home than one might think... There are still wonders and amazing attractions to be enjoyed in Europe if you're considering a mini-break or excursion a little different from ‘sun, sea and sand'.

Walls of the world

Published: 06 March 2014

Since ancient times, walls have been built to protect cities, mark borders, as a means to keep enemies out and, in some cases, to keep people in. More recently, they’ve been constructed as memorials, works of art and even places of worship. Wherever they’re built, walls tend to define as much as they divide, even as they dominate the landscape around them. And be they fortification or marker, control of walls and the territories they mark out have proved contentious not just in terms of geography but also politically.

And the winner is...

Published: 27 February 2014

Movies are often a source of travel inspiration and it’s the award-winning silver screen favourites that can most make us yearn to head away. Peter Jackson’s Lords of the Rings trilogy inspired travel to New Zealand and the country’s tourism board embraced the films by marketing itself as the “Home of Middle Earth”. And what visit to Philadelphia would be complete without the obligatory Rocky pose on top of the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art?

Pancakes go global

Published: 20 February 2014

Shrove Tuesday, the last day before the fasting time of Lent, is an important day in the run-up to the Christian festival of Easter, though it’s probably better known to most as Pancake Day. The intention is to use up all the rich foods and ingredients in the house before starting the ritual fast. Hence, mardi gras, which is French for “Fat Tuesday” and an excuse for a carnival!

Heavenly doughnuts

Published: 13 February 2014

Hot or cold, sweet or savoury, however it’s done, fried dough is a universal delight! Even in regions where there isn’t an abundance of wheat or notable baking tradition (such as Japan), you can usually find a regional or national speciality pastry that involves deep-frying batter. Whatever the shape, size or flavour, many started off as a special treat or a speciality festival food, though now can be found gracing outdoor and indoor markets as street food.

School’s out!

Published: 06 February 2014

The February half term brings respite to possibly the hardest school period for families – the arduous trek back to the books for the kids and the wet, gloomy steps back to work for parents after the bright lights of Christmas. And when the weather is cold and grey, everyone’s looking for something to break the daily routine.

Travel of the future

Published: 30 January 2014

It’s pretty evident technology has set a blistering pace over the last two decades. Imagine the response if someone 20 years ago said, “You’ll be walking around with a computer smaller than a Sony Walkman in your pocket”! Travel has evolved in much the same way – after all, just 40 years ago, the prospect of travelling from London to Paris at today’s speed and low cost would have been unimaginable.

February revels!

Published: 23 January 2014

Don’t let the cold weather put you off a February getaway; it’s a great month to travel and there are events happening all around the world that are well worth a visit. If your New Year’s resolution was to explore somewhere new this year and do something different, then these may be ideally suited! In particular, carnivals are popular and there are many taking place just before Lent, so the party season didn’t have to end on Twelfth Night!

Island escapes

Published: 16 January 2014

There are magical images that the words ‘castaway’, ‘exotic’, ‘tropical’ and ‘dreamy’ all conjure up - scenes of softly lapping waves, palm-shaded beaches and romantic walks on the shore… Maybe that fantasy of being marooned on a sun-soaked island can be a reality this year… and maybe just a touch of luxury too. Get away for a bit to enjoy a serene escape with relaxation, scenic views and inviting seas all on the menu!

Modern engineering marvels

Published: 09 January 2014

Mankind has come up with some amazing and awe-inspiring engineering achievements. Many of these spark the human impulse for travelling, to see them in person and create lasting memories of such magnificence. From ancient wonders such as the Great Wall of China and the Pyramids of Giza to more modern feats, such as the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco and the Eiffel Tower in Paris, the world abounds with these grand edifices. And if you haven’t been already, any one of them would make a memorable holiday destination this year!

New Year travel destinations

Published: 02 January 2014

Happy New Year to you! It’s that time of year, now that Christmas is over, where we slowly begin to get back to our routine and working to keep our New Year's resolutions. During the break, most of us would have given some thought to booking a holiday. Make 2014 a year to venture somewhere special or maybe finally book that trip that you’ve been always promising yourself! There are some great places to explore, near and far, all bursting with their own charms. If your goal is to try somewhere different, see if one of our selection proves irresistable for you!

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